Public Defender Calls for Adequate Response to Kortskheli Incident
The Public Defender condemns the violence committed against citizens, including members of the United National Movement, at the polling station N53 in the village of Kortskheli, Zugdidi municipality, on May 22, 2016.
According to media reports, the people involved in the violence acted as a group. Video footage shows that sticks were used during the clashes.
Law enforcement authorities should react promptly to any expression of such violence and ensure proper legal assessment of the violent acts in order to avoid emergence of the sense of impunity in the society.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, an investigation was launched into the case under article 125 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, pertaining to beating. However, the video footage released in the media clearly shows group violent actions that blatantly violated public order, use of sticks/other objects as tools of fighting and disrespect for the public, which refer to a crime envisaged by article 239 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (hooliganism committed under aggravating circumstances). During the clashes, journalists were also abused and prevented from performing their professional duties, which represents a separate crime.
The state is obliged to launch criminal prosecution against the individuals who organized and encouraged the violence, or took part in it. It is important to note that the target of the violence was an oppositional party and its political leaders, which makes the authorities obliged to ensure an immediate response and carry out an investigation of high standards.
The Public Defender considers that the delayed reaction to the violence will affect the election atmosphere and encourage recurrence of similar incidents. Given the above, we call on the law enforcement agencies to prevent selective justice and severely punish all perpetrators.
In addition, the law enforcement bodies are obliged not only to investigate the crime, but also to prevent similar acts in the future, though it is clear that police failed to fulfill their duties in the village of Kortskheli.
Conduct of elections in a peaceful, fair and safe atmosphere is necessary for democratic development. Citizens can make decisions about their future only through free and equal elections.
The Public Defender will closely observe the effectiveness of the efforts of the law enforcement bodies and the progress of the investigation.